Rugby League: Town have a Hill to climb

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The Independent Online
KEIGHLEY and Workington Town might well ask each other if they have met somewhere before when they line up today for the most important Second Division match so far this season, writes Dave Hadfield.

The same two clubs led the way last year in rugby league's now-defunct Third Division and this time they are second and third respectively in the bid for promotion to the top flight. Form and circumstances point to Keighley, a club who have pulled themselves up from the depths, further improving their position today.

They beat Workington twice last season and have home advantage. Workington's need for a win is the greater if they are not to slip in the promotion race, and they are rich in experience, with players like Des Drummond, Phil McKenzie and Shaun Wane.

The Halifax influence is strong at Keighley; Greg Austin, who last week became the first Australian for 30 years to score 200 tries in British rugby, has been one important acquisition from the Thrum Hall club, but perhaps the biggest factor - in more ways than one - could be Brendan Hill.

Hill is The Last of the Dinosaurs, a massive prop whose weight and consequent lack of stamina has seen him nagged and crash-dieted from Leeds to Bradford to Halifax and now to Keighley. That has tended to obscure the fact that, used imaginatively, he can be highly effective and 11 tries make him the top-scoring forward in the game this season. Workington take him lightly at their peril.

TODAY'S FIXTURES (3.0 unless stated): Silk Cut Challenge Cup first round Blackpool v Park Amateurs ; Chorley v Elland; Nottingham v Clayton.

Stones Bitter Championship Castleford v Bradford (3.30); Halifax v Widnes; Oldham v Leigh; Salford v Wakefield; Sheffield v Leeds (3.15); Warrington v Featherstone; Wigan v Hull KR. Second Division Batley v Barrow (3.15); Carlisle v Ryedale-York; Doncaster v Rochdale; Highfield v Hunslet; Huddersfield v Bramley (3.30); Keighley v Workington (3.15); Swinton v Dewsbury; Whitehaven v London Crusaders (3.30).